"'Give us also the Right to our Existence!' Explorations of Gender Identity in the Early 20th Century as portrayed in Virginia Woolf's Orlando and Radclyffe Hall's The Well of Loneliness."
In the early twentieth-century, researchers such as Havelock Ellis and Richard von Krafft-Ebing wrote about a phenomenon they called sexual inversion. This was the study of homosexuals who identified as the opposite sex. The idea of a sexual invert was also adopted by a number of writers, such as Radclyffe Hall, who herself identified as a congenital invert. She was a lesbian who preferred masculine clothing. The protagonist, Stephen Gordon, in her novel The Well of Loneliness is born a girl, but grows up as a little boy, because of her parents who had expected to have a son. In later life, Stephen identifies herself as a lesbian and an invert, because she does not want to wear feminine clothing and resents her feminine body. Woolf also wrote about a person whose sexuality and gender is deviated from the norm in Orlando. Orlando is a man who halfway through the book turns into a woman and thus experiences life both ! as a man and a woman, coming to the conclusion that a character that is a combination of both male and female aspects would make a better-developed person.
Faculteit der Letteren